Skip navigation

'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Monday, January 16, 2012

Read the transcript to the Monday show

  Most Popular
Most viewed

Guests: E.J. Dionne, Michael Eric Dyson, Ron Carey, Goldie Taylor, Jodi Kantor, Jeff Garlin

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: First, the biggest newspaper in South
Carolina endorses Jon Huntsman. Then Jon Huntsman drops out of the race.
Then the woman who wrote the editorial endorsing Huntsman actually says,
it`s as if he turned to her, after love making, and said, you know what, I
think I`m gay.


CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: Jon Huntsman is dropping his presidential bid.

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: Jon Huntsman officially dropped out of the
race for president.

TODD: Huntsman calls it quits.

suspending my campaign.

TODD: Ending a candidacy that was always better in theory than in

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some have described Jon Huntsman as a media mirage
all along.

WAGNER: He`s singing a new tune when it comes to Mitt Romney.

HUNTSMAN: I believe that candidate is Governor Mitt Romney.

TAMRON HALL, MSNBC ANCHOR: He`s praising Mitt Romney as the most

TODD: He`s dropping out of the race today and throwing his support to
the man he once called unelectable.


HALL: Jon Huntsman really slammed Mitt Romney.

TODD: He attacked Mitt Romney as being out of touch. He said that he
was a job killer, not a job creator.

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC ANCHOR: We are now left with big government

that! I wore my -- I wore my jeans today!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We watched Huntsman go all nicey-nice.

HUNTSMAN: I believe it is time for our party to unite.

WAGNER: Jon Huntsman says the GOP race has degenerated.

HUNTSMAN: This race has degenerated into an onslaught of negative and
personal attacks.

WAGNER: Personal attacks not worthy of the American people.

HUNTSMAN: The current toxic form of our political discourse.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Jon 2012 girls will probably end up on FOX
News very shortly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think a factor, candidly, is the Colbert factor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He didn`t want to be humiliated in South Carolina.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stephen Colbert running at the same level or maybe
slightly higher than Jon Huntsman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don`t want to finish behind Stephen Colbert.

STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: I am not calling anybody a serial killer.

ANNOUNCER: Mitt the Ripper.


COLBERT: That`s powerful stuff.



O`DONNELL: One week after Stephen Colbert bested him in a South
Carolina poll, Jon Huntsman decided it was time to end his run for
president. The news broke just after South Carolina`s largest newspaper,
"The State," endorsed Huntsman.

Cindy Scoppe, the editor, who actually wrote that endorsement, gave a
vivid description of what it felt like to have the candidate she endorsed
immediately drop out on the same day the endorsement was published. "It is
rather like having gone through a courtship for some period of time and
finally making love with a man, for him to suddenly turn around and say,
you know what, I think I`m gay."

Here is Jon Huntsman in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, saying, in
effect, you know what? I think I`m gay.


HUNTSMAN: I believe it is now time for our party to unite around the
candidate best equipped to defeat Barack Obama. Despite our differences
and the space between us on some of the issues, I believe that candidate is
Governor Mitt Romney.


O`DONNELL: Here are just some examples of some of the differences,
some of the space between Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney on some of the


HUNTSMAN: I think when you`re on too many sides of the issues of the
day, when you don`t have that core, when there`s that element of trust out
there, I think that becomes a problem. And I think it makes you
unelectable against Barack Obama.

He delivered health care reform with a mandate. He raised taxes $750
million worth. So, I think it`s -- and it was 47th overall in job

Somebody who breaks down businesses, destroys jobs as opposed to
creating jobs and opportunity, leveraging up, spinning off, enriching

Governor Romney enjoys firing people. I enjoy creating jobs.

MODERATOR: Are you suggesting, Governor, that we just take all our
troops out next week? What`s your proposal?

HUNTSMAN: Did you hear what I just said? I said we should draw down
from 100,000. We don`t need 100,000 troops.

I don`t subscribe to the Don Trump school or the Mitt Romney school of
international trade. I don`t want to find ourselves in a trade war.

ROMNEY: I just think it`s most likely that the person who should
represent our party running against President Obama is not someone who
called him a remarkable leader and went to be his ambassador in China.

HUNTSMAN: This nation is divided, David, because of attitudes like


O`DONNELL: Mitt Romney has been running away from his pro-gay rights
past in Massachusetts, so he had no intention of appearing with Jon
Huntsman today when Huntsman was doing the political equivalent of saying,
you know what, I think I`m gay.

Instead, Romney took his anti-gay message to another audience in
Myrtle Beach.


ROMNEY: This president has tried to pave the path for same-sex
marriage to spread across the country. My view is that we should defend
the Defense of Marriage Act and that we should have a constitutional
amendment that defines marriage as a relationship between a man and a


O`DONNELL: At an emergency stop Romney meeting at a Texas ranch this
weekend, after three rounds of voting, Christian leaders chose their
alternative to Mitt Romney.

"The Washington Post" reports that Rick Santorum cleared the three
quarters threshold, receiving 85 votes to Gingrich`s 29.

A national Gallup poll conducted after the New Hampshire primary shows
Romney pulling away from the Republican field. Since early January,
Romney`s support has climbed 13 points to 37 percent. That puts him 23
points ahead of Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. Ron Paul polls fourth
with 12 percent.

Joining me now, "Washington Post" opinion writer and MSNBC political
analyst E.J. Dionne. Also joining us, former Minnesota Republican Party
chairman and former chief of staff to Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, Ron

Thank you both very much for joining me.

E.J., how is the stop-Romney movement feeling tonight?

E.J. DIONNE, WASHINGTON POST: Not great, is the answer to the
question. I think that with, you know, Jon Huntsman pulling out, he was
getting 4 percent or 5 percent, just behind Colbert, as you pointed out.
And the general sense is to the extent those people vote, they`re more
likely to vote for Romney than any of these other candidates.

I think the problem is that Rick Santorum, as those evangelicals
suggested and conservative Christians suggested in endorsing him is
probably the guy with the best shot of uniting everybody. But Newt
Gingrich is still running ahead of him in South Carolina, at least
according to most of the polls I`ve seen. So, there`s no incentive for
Gingrich to get out.

There`s got to be a gathering together among the conservatives if
they`re going to have any chance at all of beating Romney, and that`s just
not happening right now.

O`DONNELL: All right. Here`s Newt Gingrich today, responding to the
evangelical leaders endorsing Rick Santorum.


automatically take advice from Texas. I think there`s marginally very
little impact. The fact is Senator Santorum in the polls I`ve seen today
is running fourth. And so, people have got to decide. I mean, if you vote
for Senator Santorum, in effect, you`re functionally voting for Governor
Romney to be the nominee, because he`s not going to beat him. And the only
way you can stop Governor Romney for all practical purposes is to vote for
Newt Gingrich. And that`s a fact.


O`DONNELL: Ron Carey, you`re a Santorum supporter, right?

all the candidates -- I`m a conservative. And I`ve looked at all the
conservatives and the Rick Santorum is the full-spectrum conservative that
I believe can beat Barack Obama. That really was the deciding factor. I
want somebody who`s consistent in their conservative views

But it`s not a matter of just being consistent, you have to be
electable. That`s where Newt Gingrich has a real problem. I mean, I think
it`s clear right now, as a conservative, that one of three people will
become president and take the oath of office in January 2013. It`s going
to either be Obama, Romney, or Santorum. That`s just a fact.

FOX News had a poll out today that showed what the state of the
American voters are right now. But by over a two to one margin, people
have -- America have an unfavorable impression of newt Gingrich. That`s
almost unheard of in the political spectrum, because conservatives say
Barack Obama is unelectable because he has a 47 percent unfavorable rating,
but Gingrich blows Obama out of the water.

So, why would conservatives put all their eggs in a Newt Gingrich
basket at this point in time when he could be toxic to the conservative
cause and really hand the election to Barack Obama? So, that`s why I`m
hoping that conservatives will coalesce around the electable conservative,
the full-spectrum conservative, Rick Santorum.

O`DONNELL: Ron, what do you make of the reports coming out of that
event that the vote was rigged, that some people were told after the second
ballot that it`s all over, we`re not going to do anymore, and they left,
and then they had a third ballot, and your guy, Santorum, won the third
ballot, and there was ballot stuffing.

"The Washington Times," a conservative paper, has this kind of
reporting in it about what went on there.

What do you make of that?

CAREY: Well, there`s sour grapes in football just as there is in
sports and any other kind of contact activity. And I mean, there were
people who were there who described the contest as being a straight, open
event that it just came down to that as the people from the different
campaigns made the case, it was very clear that while Newt Gingrich is a
fine conservative and Rick Perry`s a fine conservative, Rick Santorum is
the conservative who can reach out to the American people and really build
a coalition that`s going to take for Republicans to be successful, and the
coalition that`s going to stop Mitt Romney here in the coming days.

So, you`re going to see Gingrich and his friends, you know, spinning
furiously because this could be the death knell of his campaign.

It was interesting to see how the moderate wing of the Republican
Party, they get it, they`re consolidating now behind Mitt Romney with Jon
Huntsman stepping out. I hope that Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich Perry
realize that the longer they stay in this race, the more likely it is
they`re the ones who are going to give this nomination to Mitt Romney.

And I`m hoping conservatives are smart enough here in the coming days
to realize that we need to put our firepower, our majority firepower behind
one candidate.

O`DONNELL: Let`s look at the new ad that the Santorum campaign
released in its attempt to stop Romney.


NARRATOR: Obama supported the Wall Street bailouts. So did Romney.

Obama gave us radical Obamacare that was based on Romneycare.

Obama`s a liberal on social issues. Romney once bragged he`s even
more liberal than Ted Kennedy on social issues.

Why would we ever vote for someone who`s just like Obama when we unite
around Rick Santorum and beat Obama?

SANTORUM: I`m Rick Santorum and I approved this message.


O`DONNELL: E.J., I can`t think of anything easier than writing anti-
Romney ads for conservative audiences. But Romney is still standing and
growing. How is this happening?

DIONNE: I with wish I could imitate that voice in the ad. It`s

You know, I think the problem is they all had to do all of this a lot
earlier. And what you had in Iowa was a kind of spontaneous unity among
conservatives where they were watching this campaign, that relatively small
number of people who vote in the caucuses pay a lot of attention to
politics and around the middle of December, they decided that all these
other conservatives had been discredited for one reason or another and
started rallying to Santorum.

I think he is the logical guy, the only guy who can probably beat
Romney. But they really with were very late in doing this. And if you go
back to Iowa and New Hampshire, a lot of these non-Romneys spent most of
their time attacking each other, trying to emerge as the alternative.

And so, now when they have finally turned their attention to going
after Romney`s record, because it`s really hard to figure out where he
stands on a lot of these issues, it`s too late. And I think that may be
their problem in South Carolina.

O`DONNELL: E.J., quickly, before we go, you`ve watched the Gingrich
ego for a long time. Will the day come when he is able to say, we should
unite around Rick Santorum?

DIONNE: I think it`s possible. The reason that -- the only reason, I
think it`s possible is because I think he is still furious at Mitt Romney
for the ads by that super PAC against him in Iowa. And so, if Santorum
manages to pass him in South Carolina, I think that`s a real possibility,
as hard as it is to believe.

O`DONNELL: E.J. Dionne of "The Washington Post" and Santorum
supporter Ron Carey, thank you both very much for joining me tonight.

DIONNE: Good to be with you.

CAREY: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, inside the Obama White House with the author of
a controversial new book entitled "The Obamas."

And on the holiday that marks his birthday, what would Martin Luther
King Jr. think about hour country and our politics? I`ll ask Goldie Taylor
and Michael Eric Dyson.

And human error is blamed for the cruise ship crash off the Italian
coast, specifically captain error. Twenty-nine people have yet to be
found. Among them, two Americans. The latest from the accident site is
coming up.


O`DONNELL: What would Martin Luther King, Jr. think of America in
2012? What would he think of the Republican candidate who quoted him
today? What would he think of the economic future of all Americans?
Goldie Taylor and Eric Michael Dyson will join me next.

And in the "Rewrite" tonight, Martin Luther King, Jr. will rewrite
Martin Luther King, Jr.



ROMNEY: I know that this falls on Martin Luther King Day and I want
to express my admiration for a man who stood for the principles of equality
under the law as required by our Constitution. I think he`s a great man
and appreciate his service for our country and our Constitution.


O`DONNELL: That was Willard M. Romney at the start of his speech at
Ralph Reed`s Faith and Freedom Coalition event today in South Carolina.

In that same speech, he derided President Obama`s work as a community
organizer, the same work Martin Luther King, Jr. did.


ROMNEY: I think Barack Obama deserves some of the credit for the
people coming together here. You know, they called him a community
organizer. I don`t think this was the community he was planning on
organizing, but it is working. We`re coming together because of that guy.


O`DONNELL: In South Carolina this morning, Newt Gingrich spoke at a
Martin Luther King Day breakfast where he said this --


GINGRICH: Dr. King would have asked us today, not just to look back
and remember, but to look forward, to look to the other people here in this
room, to look to the other people who aren`t here in this room, to ask
ourselves, to what degree can we give to them the same spirit of hope, the
same idealism, the same belief in America, the same understanding that
salvation comes through faith in God and that together we can, in fact,
create a dramatically better future for all Americans of every background.


O`DONNELL: And then later today, Newt Gingrich said this about
President Obama and food stamps.


GINGRICH: I think we can run a campaign in which we represent the
paycheck and he represents food stamps. We represent everybody in America
who would like to be independent and working. He represents those who want
to be dependent, or those politicians who want you to be dependent.


O`DONNELL: Joining me now are Goldie Taylor, contributor to "The
Grio", which is part of NBC News; and MSNBC political analyst Michael Eric
Dyson, a professor of sociology at Georgetown University and the author of
two books on Martin Luther King, including "April 4th, 1968: Martin Luther
King, Jr.`s Death and How it Changed America."

Goldie and Michael, I just want you guys to go.

Goldie, you just heard Republicans, you just heard Newt Gingrich
talking about his notions of how Martin Luther King would see where we are
today and what American kids would want -- he would want America kids to be
thinking today. What is your reaction to what you`ve heard?

GOLDIE TAYLOR, THE GRIO: It`s anguish. You know, it`s stunning to me
that we could be months upon months until the Republican campaign and never
once has one of the candidates mentioned the access to equality, basic
education as a building block to prosperity for the least of these in this
country. You know, 58 years after Brown versus the Board of Education,
schools are still largely separate and unequal.

So, if Dr. King were alive today and walking our American public
schools, that`s where the tears and the pain would come from, knowing that
our children are crippled from the very start. That, you know, they don`t
have access to quality health care, they don`t have access to meaningful
jobs or meaningful housing, and a lot of that is trailed back to education.

And I think that is the new frontier of the civil rights movement
today. That`s where the fight is.

O`DONNELL: Michael Eric Dyson -- go ahead, Michael.

what Goldie brilliantly just deconstruct there, education as well as the
over incarceration of African-American men and women. Two million and some
odd people are in prison, half of them happen to be people of color, there
for nonviolent drug offenses. Michelle Alexander brilliantly explores this
in her book, "The New Jim Crow."

But beyond that, what is stunning to me and astonishing is that these
Republican candidates don`t even admit that their antecedents, their
ancestors, the people who they draw inspiration from, stood tooth and nail
against every shred of evidence that African-American people were human and
secondly, they stood against the very movement that delivered the very
Martin Luther King, Jr. that they now find so inspiring when they stood
tooth and nail against him to oppose him.

So now to try to divide the nation by saying that Barack Obama is the
paycheck -- is the food stamp president and Newt Gingrich will be the, you
know, the paycheck president is ridiculous. It just smacks of every kind
of racial dog-whistling going on here, and the insinuation that African-
American people are somehow outside of the arc of American privilege and
American opportunity because they failed to live up to their own demands
and expectations, not because of barriers that are imposed upon them.

O`DONNELL: I want to read you both something that you will recall Dr.
King saying in January of 1968. I want our audience to hear it in today`s
context where there`s so much discussion by Republicans of class warfare.

"Wherever the government provides opportunities and privileges for
white people and rich people, they call it subsidies. When they do it for
Negro and poor people, they call it welfare. The fact is that everybody in
this country lives on welfare. Suburbia was built with federally
subsidized credit and highways that take our white brothers out to the
suburbs were built with federally subsidized money to the tune of 90

Everybody is on welfare in this country. The problem is that we all
too often have socialism for the rich and rigged free enterprise capitalism
for the poor. That`s the problem."

Goldie, in those suburbs, many people are getting $50,000 tax
deductions for their mortgage interest and we do not call that welfare or
some kind of federal government housing credit. If Dr. King were to say
those words again today, Republicans would call that class warfare,
wouldn`t they?

TAYLOR: Yes, they`d call him a socialist. They`d call him a
communist. They would and they did.

I mean, those people living in the suburbs are getting a $50,000 tax
credit for a mortgage credit, but, you know, they call earned income
credits that go to poor and working Americans welfare. I think that`s the
deplorable thing here.

At the end of the day, you know, I went to school on a G.I. bill. I
think your father went to school on the G.I. bill. They called that

And so, anything that`s put in place to help break, you know, the
income disparities in this country is called welfare. Since 1980, the
income divides have exponentially grown. That has increased the number of
those who live in the 1 percent, but also exploded the least of these --
those people that live in the under class.

But I`ve got to tell you this. What`s happening with this new
economic downturn is that the middle class has been drawn into this
permanent underclass. People who can`t survive, cope, and make it, who
can`t pay their own rent, who can`t pay their own light bill because of GOP

And so, until we turn that back, we`ll never see this tide reverse
itself and we`ll never see families be able to, you know, get meaningful
jobs and meaningful wages and provide for themselves.

Americans believe in the spirit of work. We don`t believe in welfare,
but we believe in a social safety net that keeps people from slipping into
the margins. And I think that`s what Dr. King stood for.

O`DONNELL: Michael, what did Dr. King encounter when he expanded his
message over time from where people sit on the bus, past voting rights,
over to this larger issue of economic distribution in this country?

DYSON: He was widely demonized. He was castigated by every major
newspaper in this country.

Every major news magazine took away his PhD from him, didn`t any
longer refer to him as Dr. King. They besmirched his character. They
didn`t mention the Nobel Peace Prize because he stood against the war in
Vietnam. He began to link militarism, economic inequality, and racism, and
that was very devastating.

African-American leaders turned against him. Whitney Young, Roy
Wilkins. Whitney Young, head of the National Urban League, Roy Wilkins,
head of the NAACP. The journalist of color spoke out against him.

But Martin Luther King, Jr. stayed on message. He said, look, when
you have the `64 and `65 Voting Rights Act and the civil rights bill, those
things didn`t cost the nation anything. He said, now we`ve got to deal
with the problem of economic inequality.

He died, you will remember, in Memphis, Tennessee, struggling with
sanitation workers to raise their wages to speak to the inhumane conditions
under which they labored and to force America come to grips with rising
tides of inequality.

He was planning at the point of his death to come to Washington, D.C.
as part of the poor people`s campaign. And there, before Occupy Wall
Street came about, he wanted to occupy the empty spaces of D.C. He said,
look, you`re poor, you`re unemployed anyway, come to Washington, D.C.,
let`s let the government know in a gesture of aggressive nonviolence that
you will no longer tolerate unemployment and failed wages.

Martin Luther King, Jr. believed education was a constitutional right
and a job was a constitutional right and he was widely reviled, and he
would be widely reviled today just as he was then.

But when he died, the sweet scent of martyrdom swept away all of the

O`DONNELL: Michael Eric Dyson and Goldie Taylor, thank you both very
much for joining me tonight.

DYSON: Thanks.

TAYLOR: Thanks for having us.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Stephen Colbert`s super PAC launches in South
Carolina and goes straight for Mitt Romney. Jeff Garlin of "Curb Your
Enthusiasm" will join me to talk politics, comedy, and his new book.


O`DONNELL: Seventy two hours after the Costa Concordia ran aground on
the Italian coast, the owners of the 450 million dollar cruise ship which
carried 4,200 passengers say the cause was human error, one human, the

Tonight, six people are known dead and 29 more are still missing.
Among the missing, two Americans, a retired couple from Minnesota. NBC`s
Michelle Kosinski reports from Italy.


efforts have been relentless and dangerous. And now we know, according to
the company, what caused this disaster was human error, the captain`s
decision to go off-course, bring the ship closer to shore.

And now there`s desperate home that any of the more than two dozen
still missing might yet be found alive.

(voice-over): Rescuers fighting their way, while there`s time, to
find people who might still be trapped deep within the Costa Concordia,
today battled weather, had to pull back, as the half sunk behemoth shifted
under water, where divers, on a good day, can barely see.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s dark. And also we, we are losing the track
of our way.

KOSINSKI: Among the missing, American retirees Jerry and Barbara Heil
from Minnesota. Their family says they couldn`t wait for their dream
Mediterranean cruise.

Just yesterday, searches did manage to rescue the ship`s purser,
trapped on board for a day and a half. A bolder, still lodged in the
Concordia`s ripped hull; the ship now lying on a rocky bed more than 100
feet deep, at an angle, in danger of sliding.

And a state of emergency declared over worries the half a million
gallons of fuel could be leaking.

Still-emerging video shows how a vacation three hours in devolved into
a desperate push to escape.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People were passing out. People were getting
nervous. People were having chest pains. I was having chest pains. I was
having anxiety, because I don`t know how to swim.

KOSINSKI: Infrared video shows people inching down the exposed hull
in the dark.

Today, Osta Cruises called this the result of human error, blaming the
captain for making an unauthorized decision to steer off-course, closer to
an island. He`s also under suspicion of abandoning ship while passengers
still scrambled for their lives.

And the company said this course change may have all been for show.

PIER LUIGI FOSCHI, OSTA CRUISES CEO: He wanted to show the ship and -
- to nearby this island of Giglio. And so he decided to change the course
of the ship.

KOSINSKI: The captain has defended his action, claiming navigational
charts showed a clear route.

Locals say it`s not uncommon for cruise liners to make a display close
to land, sounding horns, delighting tourists. This video of the Concordia
on a previous run shows just that.

Today, this time, the picture shows only disaster on an enormous

(on camera): And you know, Lawrence, we have heard repeated scathing
accounts by passengers of how the evacuation was handled. But today, the
company defended its crew, saying that ship rolled quickly, rendering half
the lifeboats useless. And commended them for helping to get more than
4,000 people off safely in two hours` time.


O`DONNELL: Michelle Kosinski reporting from Italy.

A controversial book about the first couple has everyone talking about
it, including the First Lady. The author joins me next.

And later, Jeff Garlin of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" will join me to
discuss politics and his book, "Curbing It." And he will tell us why he
cries when he votes.



MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: That`s been an image that people have
tried to paint of me since, you know, the day Barack announced, that I`m
some angry black woman.


O`DONNELL: There has never been any evidence for that image of
Michelle Obama. And a sharply different image was once again delivered
today as the Obama family honored the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
this morning by participating in a community service event at the Brown
Education Campus in Washington, D.C.

The first family joined volunteers from Big Brothers, Big Sisters and
Greater D.C. Cares to help upgrade the elementary school`s library. They
painted quotes from the slain civil rights leader on the wall and organized
a reading nook for pre-school students. While greeting volunteers,
President Obama stressed the value of public service.


to celebrate Dr. King than to do something on behalf of others. What he
really said was that all of us can be a drum major for service. All of us
can be a drum major for justice.

You know, there`s nobody who can`t serve, nobody who can`t help
somebody else.


O`DONNELL: This is the third year in a row the Obamas have marked the
MLK holiday by engaging in a community service project. "The Obamas," a
new book that chronicles the first family, describes how they have
navigated the ups and downs of life in the White House and their evolving
roles in the public eye.

Joining me now is the author of "the Obamas" and "New York Times"
correspondent Jodi Kantor. Thanks for joining me tonight, Jodi.

JODI KANTOR, "THE NEW YORK TIMES: Thanks for having me.

O`DONNELL: Jodi, your book has provoked the famous Michelle Obama
quote of last week, the so-called angry black woman quote. And I just want
to run that quote again, to show how she said it and what she was referring
to when she said it. Let`s listen to that quote.


M. OBAMA: It`s more interesting to imagine this conflicted situation
here, and a strong woman and, you know -- but that`s been an image that
people have tried to paint of me since, you know, the day Barack announced,
that I`m some angry black woman.

Who can write about how I feel? Who? What third person can tell me
how I feel? Or anybody, for that matter.


O`DONNELL: So just to be clear, that reference to angry black woman
was not to your book, which Michelle Obama says she has not read and has no
intention of reading. It did -- the quote did come up in the context of a
discussion of your book. She was saying that that image is something
people have tried to attach to her for a long time.

For example, September 2008, during the presidential campaign, Bill
O`Reilly saying, she looks like an angry woman. She said that people were
calling his radio show all the time saying she looks angry. June 2009, to
go back a little while, Rush Limbaugh saying that Barack Obama is a mad
guy, quoting him. "He hung around people who were mad all his life. His
wife is angry all the time."

That`s what she`s talking about, is that people have been trying to
attach that image to her for a very long time. Would you say that your
book adds in some way evidence for the image of Michelle Obama where the
first adjective about her should be "angry"?

KANTOR: No, the book shows her as a very strong force, and a lot like
a lot of Democrats on the outside, in that she really wants the best for
her husband`s presidency. Just to back up a little bit, I`ve been covering
the Obamas for five years at "the Times." And I set out to write this book
to answer a couple of questions I thought voters would be thinking about,
as we head into the 2012 race.

What is it like when two regular -- pretty regular people move into
the White House, which is this utterly foreign world? How are the Obamas
adjusting behind the scenes to White House life? And the White House
cooperated with the book. The book was fact checked with the White House.
They haven`t pushed back on the reporting.

A lot of it is on the record. And what the book shows with Michelle
Obama is that she did have a tough arrival in the White House, because she
was a stranger in a strange world. I took a lot of time reporting the
details of White House life, to show how strange and foreign it could be.

But the book actually shows her turn around in story after story,
scene after scene, a lot of which were never told before, a lot of which
her aides shared with me. We really see her filling her role as First Lady
with meaning.

O`DONNELL: There seems to be a small pushback from the White House.
They`re saying, you know, you didn`t have access to the president and the
First Lady, which is not uncommon in books about people like this. For
example, Bob Woodward, I don`t think in any of his books about the Bush
White House, I don`t think he ever got access to Dick Cheney. Still, an
image of Dick Cheney emerged from that work, which is cross cut through
different people who were in meetings with Cheney, who gives quotes about
this is what Cheney said.

It is a very -- it seems to me, it`s a normal progress to continue to
work on these portraits even when the central subjects, some of them,
sometimes, don`t give you direct interviews.

KANTOR: Well, I think that`s very true. And I think what`s also true
is that, you know, I have interviewed the president and First Lady. And
they`re very short interviews. And there is so much they can`t say. In a
way, that`s part of what the book is about, is they come into these
incredibly confined roles.

So what I found is that aides and friends were able to tell really
rich, meaningful stories about the transitions they were going through.
You`ve heard some of the big headlines from the book already. But the book
is also about how to carve a place in this universe, how to make a life
amid this sort of craziness of the White House.

And we learned what happened the first time Malia and Sasha tried to
go trick or treating in Washington. It didn`t go very well and they had to
return to the White House in defeat. We see Barack Obama`s birthday

We also see what happens to his basketball game as president, which is
kind of a measure of whether or not people can treat you normally as
president. There`s a moment when Michelle Obama decides to go to the
Corcoran Gallery of Art. This is well into the administration. And she`s
shocked to discover that the Corcoran is only a block away, because she`s
not even allowed to walk around her own neighborhood.

O`DONNELL: Jodi, quickly, before we go, I think the big challenge of
this kind of investigative writing is how do you figure out -- or how can
you ever figure out who is telling you the truth.

KANTOR: You cross check it and check it like crazy. I mean, you
know, that`s why -- the big blow-up scene with Robert Gibbs is a good
example, because it was so sensitive that I just needed to go to person
after person in the White House, because what he said was really difficult.
And I needed to be fair to both him and Valerie Jarrett to make sure that
it was right.

O`DONNELL: Jodi Kantor of "the New York Times" and the author of "The
Obamas," thank you very much for joining us this evening.

KANTOR: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Dr. King`s words have been written in stone.
And now they have to be Rewritten. That`s next.


O`DONNELL: In tonight`s Rewrite, how do you Rewrite something written
in stone? When the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial was unveiled on the
National Mall, Rachael Manteuffel of the "Washington Post" noticed that Dr.
King was quoted incorrectly on the side of the monument where its says, "I
was a drum major for justice, peace, and righteous."

That quote struck Rachel Manteuffel as, in her words, "awfully self-
aggrandizing for a man who so often symbolized the strength in humility."

When she checked the original source of the quote, she discovered that
an important "if" clause had been left out. Dr. King didn`t think of
himself as an attention-seeking drum major, leading a parade. But he knew
that some other people did.

And so what he actually said was "if you want to say that I was a drum
major, say that I was a drum major for justice, say that I was a drum major
for peace, I was a drum major for righteous." Rachel Manteuffel
interpreted the statement this way: "if you see him as an attention-craver,
a puffed-up drum major, if you call him out on this conceit, a weakness
most people are prone to, then at least he would hope that you saw him
doing it for the most noble causes."

When she revealed the misquoting of Dr. King in the "Washington Post,"
Rachel Manteuffel called on the Interior Department to undo the mistake.
"Let`s get the chisels back out," she said.

And now Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says the etched in stone
misquote will be fixed. Secretary Salazar said, "this is important because
Dr. King and his presence on the Mall is a forever presence for the United
States of America and we have to make sure that we get it right."

The drum major quote is from a sermon that the Reverend Martin Luther
King Jr. gave on February 4th, 1968, at his church in Atlanta, the Ebenezer
Baptist Church, where his parishioners heard sermons like this from him
week in and week out for eight years. For eight years, his parishioners
were hearing the voice that changed America.

For eight years, his parishioners were hearing the voice that changed
the course of history. In what came to be known as the Drum Major Sermon,
Dr. King contemplated his own funeral. He said he didn`t want a long
funeral and he especially didn`t want a long eulogy. Two months to the day
after he delivered this sermon, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was


around when I have to meet my day, I don`t want a long funeral. And if you
get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long. I want
you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.

Yes. If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a
drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a
drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not

I won`t have any money to leave behind. I won`t have the fine and
luxurious things of life to leave behind, but I just want to leave a
committed life behind.

And that`s all I want to say. If I can help somebody as I pass along,
if I can cheer somebody with a song, if I can show somebody he`s traveling
wrong, then my living will not be in vain.

If I can do my duty as a Christian or if I can bring salvation to a
world once wronged, if I can spread the message as the master taught, then
my living will not be in vain.

Yes, Jesus, I want to be on your right or your left side, not for any
selfish reason. I want to be on your right or your left side not in times
of some political kingdom or ambition. But I just want to be there in love
and in justice and in truth and in commitment to others, so that we can
make of this old world a new world.



O`DONNELL: Jeff Garlin is best known for his role as Larry David`s
manager on HBO`s "Curb Your Enthusiasm," But he`s also the author of
"Curbing It," which is now out in paperback edition. Joining me now, Jeff
Garlin, co-star and executive producer of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," and the
author of "Curbing It," where in the paperback edition, on page 33, which
is as far as I got, you -- no, because I started to cry.

It says, "Tuesday, November 4th, 2008, election day. My meditation
today is about being satisfied with enough. What is enough? Today, I will
not be satisfied unless Barack Obama becomes president. I leave early in
the morning to vote. As I punch in my vote for president, I cry."


O`DONNELL: Is that a typical, you know, day in the voting booth?

GARLIN: Never -- I`ve never -- and by the way, I wasn`t weeping. I
wasn`t bawling. But --

O`DONNELL: Could people tell when you came out of the booth that that
weird guy was crying in there?

GARLIN: Yes. If they looked at me, they would have been able to
tell. But no one really looks. After you`re done voting, does someone
look at you? But I was crying, yeah. Yeah, definitely. It was very
emotional, a very moving day.

O`DONNELL: And are you one of the disappointed Obama voter, who sits
there and says, hey, wait a minute, how comes he has to get Congress`
approval for these things he wants to do?

GARLIN: I -- I would say I`m sort of on the fence on my
disappointment. I don`t -- you know, here`s one of the bottom line things.
Do I really know what`s going on in the White House?

O`DONNELL: No, you don`t.

GARLIN: Do I know what he`s dealing with?

O`DONNELL: No, you don`t.

GARLIN: Do I know the struggles that he has? I don`t. Would I like
things to be further along? Yes. Would I like for him to be a bit more
arrogant with the House and the Senate and go, hey, my way or the highway?

But I don`t know what`s going on. I`m a comedian. I don`t know.

O`DONNELL: Do you admire his discipline in weight control? I think
he`s wearing the same pants he wore in high school. The guy --

GARLIN: Well, you would think, with that stress, that he would have
had a bowl or two of pudding.

O`DONNELL: Right, a Twinkie, the occasional bucket of ice cream, just
to kind of -- comfort food thing.

GARLIN: Yes, yes, I would have thought. So, yes, it`s impressive.

O`DONNELL: Now, advice -- I`m just going to ask you if you have any
advice for future president of the United States Chris Christie, governor
of New Jersey. He has a weight problem, doesn`t he?

GARLIN: You mention that a lot.

O`DONNELL: Because you`re going to play him in the movie.

GARLIN: I see that on Twitter.

O`DONNELL: You`re going to have to gain weight to play him.

GARLIN: Is he that big? I don`t even know.

O`DONNELL: He`s really big.

GARLIN: I have no advice for anyone who chooses the path of politics.

O`DONNELL: But do you think --

GARLIN: Let me ask you a question here. When you were in high
school, the people that ran for student council, would you want to hang out
with them?

O`DONNELL: Uh, no.

GARLIN: You`re hanging out with them now. You`re talking about them
now. Your whole life is about those people. I prefer to take a nap.


GARLIN: I vote, though. So I`m not like passive.

O`DONNELL: You vote?

GARLIN: I vote every year and I cry. I vote passionately, yes. But
I truly believe that -- I really think that, you know, it`s wrestling.

O`DONNELL: THE LAST WORD tonight belongs to Jeff Garlin. Jeff, thank
you very much for joining us.

We have a live edition of THE ED SHOW coming up next.


<Copy: Content and programming copyright 2012 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Copyright 2012 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>

Watch The Last Word With Lawrence O'Donnell each weeknight at 10 p.m. ET

Sponsored links

Resource guide